On the morning of July 16th, 1945 the first successful detonation of an atomic bomb was recorded at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The explosion from the blast yielded more power than twenty thousand tons of TNT and could be seen at a distance greater than two hundred miles away. (Atomic Bomb-Truman Press Release) Later that month President Truman met with other Allied commanders in Potsdam, Germany to negotiate terms that would put an end to the Second World War.
During the conference, the Allies declared that Japan must unconditionally surrender and they released the “Potsdam Declaration” which threatened Japan with “prompt and utter destruction” if it did not do so. (The Potsdam Conference, 1945) Japan rejected the declaration which led Truman to authorize the use of atomic weapons. On the morning of August 6th, 1945 the a-bomb nicknamed Littleboy was dropped on Hiroshima. Seventy thousand lives were lost in a blinding flash of light and heat. Japan still would not surrender.
A few days later on August 9th, 1945 the second bomb, Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki killing over twenty thousand instantly. Twenty thousand more would die in the following weeks due to radiation exposure. (Atomic Bomb-Truman Press Release) One of the most debated topics in military history today is former President Harry Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on two cities in Japan in order to end a long and costly war. Harry Truman adopted our nation on April 12th 1945, during one of the most tumultuous periods in United States history and no decision he could have made would have been popular among all of our allies, citizens, and our soldiers. Truman also came into office around the time that the atomic bomb was invented, which at the time was just a more efficient way to bomb cities and people.
Not much was known about the capabilities and consequences of the weapon. Even though the after effects of the weapon remained for the most part a mystery, some would say that the use of the atomic bombs was the only way to end one of the deadliest wars the United States had ever been involved in. However, others would say that the dropping of the atomic bomb was a gross misuse of power to achieve the political end state of Harry Truman, and was not absolutely necessary. This paper will prove that the atomic bomb was not needed to end the war. Douglas MacArthur, commander of US forces in the Pacific, wrote, “The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason of his being . . . a sacred trust.” The uses of the atomic bombs on the two cities were acts of terrorism, and the primary purpose was political, not military. (Chambers, John pg. 371)
With the end result of the battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, which resulted in almost every Japanese soldier fighting to the death with only a handful surrendering, some people would say that the bombs needed to be dropped so one million American lives would not be lost in the planned landing at Kyushu. (Operation Downfall) Those who would say that the bombs were the only way to end the war are wrong. Japan is an Island nation not capable of self-sustainment whose navy during World War II was the backbone of their military power and protector of trade routes. The Japanese were defeated when United States military forces advanced past Iwo Jima and Okinawa, they were just too proud to admit it. Terrorism is defined as the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. (Google.com) The aim towards the end of World War II was to end the war as fast as possible, by whatever means necessary. During the latter part of the war the Army Air Corp conducted a bombing raid on the Japanese city of Tokyo.
Tokyo had very little military presence but the purpose of the raid was to force Japan into surrendering. Overnight one hundred thousand civilian lives were lost. The amount of casualties in the Tokyo bombings rivaled the amount of casualties caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (A Forgotten Horror: The Great Tokyo Air Raid) The United States has recently developed a term for this type of fighting; it is called Shock and Awe. Shock and awe, “technically known as rapid dominance, is a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power, dominant battlefield awareness, dominant maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze an adversary’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.” (Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance) Some would say this doctrine proves that the use of the atomic bombs was necessary but again they are wrong. This doctrine was formulated under our Rules of Engagement and anything described in the definition of Shock and Awe that goes outside of our Rules of Engagement is considered a war crime.
Not only were the bombs not needed to be dropped on Japan for them to surrender but by dropping them, the United States was committing modern day war crimes by dropping them. The term Shock and Awe is also a synonym for the German word Blitzkrieg or in English, “Lightning Warfare”. For Germany to achieve their objectives, they had to use this type of warfare against their enemies. They were wrong humanitarianly in doing so, but that was the only way to achieve their objectives. However in the Pacific, Shock and Awe tactics were not necessary for Japan’s surrender because, and it has already been stated, Japan was already defeated. The difficult task was how to make them surrender, and by dropping the atomic bombs the United States made the wrong choice. Nearing the end of the World War II, Japan’s Navy and Air Force were both close to extinction. They did not have anywhere near the same presence as they had during the early stages of the war and did not have the power to protect their trade and supply routes.
The United States Navy created a blockade around Japan that is metaphorically comparable to an hourglass counting down to surrender. Japan is not a self-sustaining country, without imports their economy would collapse, armies would starve, and engines would stop. Oil was especially scarce in Japan late in the war. All of their crude oil was imported and by the end of the war, the United States had almost completely cut off Japan’s supply of crude oil, without which, Japan would not have been able to power their ships, planes, transport vehicles, and Tanks. This is where Truman makes his mistake by thinking that we needed to end the war as quickly as possible. The United States economy was in good shape thanks to the war. The US Navy had all the oil and supplies they needed. The United States had it all at this point and Harry Truman acted politically instead of humanitarianly. The atomic bombs did not need to be used.
Continuing the Naval blockade would not only have achieved the military objectives but it would also have saved one hundred thousand civilian lives. In modern times, when people hear about nuclear weapons and atomic bombs, they tend to panic because they know of the devastation of these weapons and that there are people crazy enough out there to actually use them. To think that the United States used atomic weapons in the past, and on non-combatants, is a sickening thought. The United States, the most powerful country in the world stooped low enough to kill thousands of innocents instead of spending a few more years and dollars in the Pacific. What Harry Truman did was simply kill for his political aim to end the war as fast as possible and the word we would use to describe that today is terrorism. The war in the Pacific was over after the battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, it was only a matter of time before the Japanese would surrender. They had nowhere to go, no naval or air power to gain back their lost islands, and their food supply decreased with each day. The bombs did not need to be dropped.
“Atomic Bomb-Truman Press Release-August 6, 1945.” Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. . Book, “Operation Downfall. Victory in the Pacific.WGBH American Experience | PBS.” PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. . Chambers, John Whiteclay, and G. Kurt Piehler. Major problems in American military history: documents and essays. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Print. “Office of the Historian – Milestones – 1937-1945 – The Potsdam Conference, 1945.” Office of the Historian. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. . Spitzer, Kirk. “A Forgotten Horror: The Great Tokyo Air Raid | TIME.com.” U.S. | News, Headlines, Stories, Video from Around the Nation | TIME.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. .
Vetting of Sources
“Atomic Bomb-Truman Press Release-August 6, 1945.” Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. . The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum is one of thirteen Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Book, “Operation Downfall. Victory in the Pacific.WGBH American Experience | PBS.” PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. . PBS is a private, nonprofit corporation, founded in 1969, whose members are America’s public TV stations — noncommercial, educational licensees that operate more than 350 PBS member stations and serve all 50 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa.
“Office of the Historian – Milestones – 1937-1945 – The Potsdam Conference, 1945.” Office of the Historian. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. . The Office of the Historian is staffed by professional historians who are experts in the history of U.S. foreign policy and the Department of State and possess unparalleled research experience in classified and unclassified government records. The Office’s historians work closely with other federal government history offices, the academic historical community, and specialists across the globe. The Office is directed by Dr. Stephen Randolph, The Historian of the U.S. Department of State.
Spitzer, Kirk. “A Forgotten Horror: The Great Tokyo Air Raid | TIME.com.” U.S. | News, Headlines, Stories, Video from Around the Nation | TIME.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. . Time Inc., a division of Time Warner, is one of the largest branded media companies in the world. The company engages more than 138 million U.S. consumers in print, online and via mobile devices each month. With influential brands such as TIME, PEOPLE, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, InStyle and Real Simple, Time Inc. has owned some of the biggest news stories of the decade and is home to celebrated franchises such as the FORTUNE 500, TIME 100, PEOPLE’s Most Beautiful and the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Swimsuit Issue.
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